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BullsEye

Diving the Mendocino Coast for Abalone

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The trip started at 6:00am as we hit the road from Pasadena to Mendocino, a 9 hour drive with the most scenic part being north of San Francisco. The landscape went from high desert in LA county to major agriculture in the central valley and redwood forest in Mendocino.As we came around a bend following an emerald river through some of the oldest trees in the world, some from before Christ, we came upon the coast with large rocks and cliffs jutting out of the pacific. Everything is some shade of green around here and beckons for time to be spent around a fire. We arrived a little later to out campground in Albion, thanks to Davis for the recommendation, and quickly setup camp. We where against time for an afternoon dive. My friend Brian and his wife also made it to camp a little later and we eventually had the Smurfette , Brian's inflatable Achilles boat, set up in the ocean. It was time to get some abalone! Well low and behold the cranky craft decided that it didn't want to co-operate, we where just out of the river mouth as the engine over heated and Brian says, "Get the oars and paddle for shore." So our grand hurrah was deflated but fortunately the boat decided to fail near shore and the paddle was a quick one. We cleaned things up and with little light I decided to try and swim out from Albion beach to find some reef and hopefully some abalone. However with the fading sun and only murky sandy water I decided it wasn't worth the effort and that abalone dinner would wait till tomorrow.One of the locals from the camp pointed us to a few different spots that had been productive for him in the past so I tried my luck with a shore dive the following morning. I had everything all planned out except for one thing. I dove down in some ruff water as the swell was 8-10 feet but there was a natural barrier protecting us from the waves yet the water was still choppy. Visibility was a clear 1-3 feet, which made for a game of peek a boo with some underwater structure but that wasn't the problem. I dove down and managed a 9 inch abalone as my first abalone ever. This was a good start my next one was around 7.5 inches but I made a mistake that hurt my wallet. I had my abalone iron and gauge tied to a 75 foot nylon rope I was using as a float line. Well this line doesn't float so well and with the visibility being so low I lost track of the line and lost my whole setup. I learned the hard way that an abalone float tube is a great tool to have when ab diving. So I had the number of a local dive shop, Sub-Surface Progression Dive Shop, and made a bee line for them in Fort Bragg. I bought a new iron another gauge and rented a float tube. That was a $40 mistake, I still need a float line but oh well. With two abalone in the bag I need to get my third for my limit. By this point I was ready to take the first one I could so I could fry them in my wok. That night dinner was very tasty as we ate abalone and drank whiskey around a large fire and chatted till the wee hours and enjoyed a clear starry sky, something you don't see in LA.The next day I had to be on top of things as we where heading back to Pasadena. I grabbed my gear and went to the beach and to my surprise the visibility opened up to 6 feet. I made quick work of the abalone with the float tube and then went in to grab my spear as there where some fish hanging around. I managed head shots on a Greenling, a Sargo and a couple of Perch but missed an opportunity on some rock fish because I only had my abalone iron when I saw them.We headed back to camp to help the ladies clean things up and then made the journey back to Los Angeles after returning the float tube. Would I do it again, in a heart beat, but I would take more time off to explore and I would bring an abalone float.DSCN2616.jpgDSCN2609.jpgDSCN2608.jpgIMG-20120418-00253.jpgIMG-20120418-00252.jpg

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Nice catch! Ugly critters, but tasty!!

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Those are some nice abalone! Boy, do they taste good too. Nice work with the spear too. It looks like you're getting a pretty good handle on this fishing.

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Glad you had a good time, That is a long haul for three abs. I just gave away a float tube, and a bunch of dive gear, infact the friend I gave it all to hasen't even picked it up yet.I even gave him some underwater photo equipment. Be real carefull when ab diving up here, the wardens will ticket you for anything and everything they can.Tom

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I met a warden by the name of Joey I believe he checked my abalone out and we chatted a little. Friendly and professional. I have had a number of experiences with Fish and Game and they where all positive.

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9" is a trophy ab. Instead of a float tube try rigging up an old body board. Couple of shoulder straps, mesh, and ingenuity and they can be pretty trick. The abs will cling to the board, no real reason to try and attach them although it can be done. The boogie is great for skimming out through rough water and kelp. The downside is you're riding a booger.

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Laundry basket in an inner tube used to work for us. Tie the basket in the tube with 1/4 in polypro and leave about 20 feet of rope with a 3 lb dive weight attached for an anchor. You can also rig shoulder straps so you can wear it like a back pack. Tube won't tip over and abs won't crawl or fall out. Of course now that the limit is only three, you could just put them inside your wet suit on your chest. (They don't bite and peel right off without using an ab iron.)

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Lots of good info. I will probably just rent a tube when I am in the area. Five bucks for a tube rental is cheap and its one less wet stinky thing in my car. :)

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